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Sunkoshi-Marin Project tunnel sees breakthrough

The national pride project is expected to generate 31.07 megawatts of electricity and provide irrigation to approximately 122,000 hectares of fertile land in several districts of Southern Nepal.  

Photo: RSS

Kathmandu: The long-awaited Sunkoshi-Marin Diversion Multipurpose Project, anticipated to benefit vast areas of land in Nepal’s southern plains, has achieved a significant milestone with the completion of its tunnel construction. 

Expected to generate 31.07 megawatts of electricity and provide irrigation to approximately 122,000 hectares of fertile land in several districts throughout the year, the project has been designated as a National Pride Project by the government.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal inaugurated the breakthrough event by activating the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) switch. Prime Minister Dahal urged authorities to expedite remaining works on schedule. 

Originally initiated by former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in March 2021, the project’s construction began in October 2022 after a delay of 19 months from the foundation stone laying. 

Mitra Baral, head of the project, said the tunnel breakthrough is done one year ahead of schedule, achieved with a daily progress of 72 meters. “Despite intermittent interruptions due to dry landslides, the project witnessed breakthrough before a year,” he said.

The project entails a high-quality 5.5-meter diameter tunnel and plans for constructing a dam on the Sunkoshi River, facilitating electricity generation from water flow. Chinese company China Overseas Engineering Group Co Ltd (COVEC) secured the tunnel construction contract, completing the tunnel excavation for Rs 10.56 billion out of the total project cost of Rs 49.42 billion.

Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Chen Song and US Ambassador Dean R. Thompson commended the breakthrough.

Speaking at the program, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Chen Song said, “It is truly national pride for Nepal as a total of 122,000 hectares of land in the Southern area of Nepal will be irrigated. A big thank you to Chinese contractors and Nepali technicians.”

The program was also attended by the US Ambassador to Nepal Dean R. Thompson. “It was a great example of American technology being used to help improve access to water resources in Nepal. This tunnel, completed in nineteen months by Robbins’ tunnel-boring machine — eleven months ahead of schedule, demonstrates that Nepal can bring projects to a close not just on schedule, but ahead of schedule,” he wrote on X. 

“We are proud of the role that American technology has played in delivering this successful result and look forward to more collaboration that benefits Nepal,” he wrote further.